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Highlighting the power of community in addressing domestic violence


8 March 2024 at 9:00 am
Ed Krutsch
Ashton Wood is the founder of DV Safe Phone, an initiative that is repurposing and distributing mobile phones to victims of domestic violence through a network of registered charities, safe houses, and law enforcement agencies. 


Ed Krutsch | 8 March 2024 at 9:00 am


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Highlighting the power of community in addressing domestic violence
8 March 2024 at 9:00 am

 

Ashton Wood is the founder of DV Safe Phone, an initiative born out of a critical need identified by a senior police sergeant who expressed an urgent requirement for mobile phones to support victims of domestic violence. Recognising the profound impact such a simple tool could have, Ashton spearheaded the creation of an organisation dedicated to empowering those affected by domestic violence with a vital lifeline to safety and support. Ashton is this weeks Pro Bono Australia change maker!

Describe your career trajectory and how you got to your current position.

Before COVID hit, my consulting job in the telecommunications and IT industry had me flying around a lot, both within the country and internationally. Suddenly, when the pandemic started, all that travel stopped. I found myself with a lot more free time, since I wasn’t spending hours at airports or on planes anymore.

With this extra time on my hands, I decided to declutter my house and donate things I no longer needed to charity. My car was loaded with items ready to be dropped off at the local charity shop the next day. But, that night, we went into lockdown due to COVID, and suddenly, I had no place to take my donation.

In trying to find somewhere for these items, I ended up calling a former police officer I knew to see if she could use any of it. She told me what she really needed was mobile phones. That’s when the lightbulb went off for me. Everyone has old phones lying around at home, and companies have loads of them gathering dust. That’s how the idea for DV Safe Phone was born, realising we could put these unused phones to good use.

What does this role mean to you?

It’s deeply fulfilling knowing that our work directly impacts people’s lives in a positive way, providing them with tools to enhance their safety and privacy, is incredibly motivating. It’s a reminder that technology, when directed with purpose, can be a powerful force for good.

I’m also amazed at the goodness in people who find the time to get involved, some of whom are going through their own personal struggles and challenges in life.

Take us through a typical day of work for you.

My mornings often kick off with an early morning trip to the post office to pick up parcels, greeted by friendly staff who regularly say “You’re going to need a trolley!”. It’s always a thrill to collect the shipments because we get hundreds of phones every week, and it’s fascinating to see what we’ve received.

With a dedicated team of 18 volunteers and 5 part-time staff, there’s a constant buzz of activity as many volunteers pitch in to process the incoming phones. Tasks range from logging them in, testing their functionality, carrying out necessary repairs and packing the working ones into boxes ready for shipment.

A significant part of my day is also devoted to running the charity, working with our partners and volunteers on our comms and at speaking engagements, both in-person and online, with business groups and corporations. These organisations often support DV Safe Phone through their ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) initiatives by organising collections of phones and funds. During these sessions, I take the opportunity to talk about domestic violence in Australia and explain how our work at DV Safe Phone helps provide survivors with a crucial lifeline.

Most recently we’ve been working with PR agency MediaCast as part of their Pro Bono for Purpose initiative on an upcoming campaign to encourage Australians to search their homes and workplaces for old mobile phones to support victims of domestic violence.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in your career, and how did you overcome it?

The greatest challenge of my career is something I’m facing at this very moment!

Right now, we’re dispatching more than 100 free mobile phones each week, with SIM cards, credit, charger cables and postage.

It costs us an average of $75 for every phone that leaves our office, so operating without a direct source of income and facing a growing demand from agencies in need of phones presents a continuous balancing act of managing both funds and phone supplies to maintain our impact.

This challenge has required innovative approaches to funding and resource management, leveraging partnerships, and seeking community support to sustain our mission. It’s an ongoing journey, but the commitment to making a real difference in the lives of those affected by domestic violence is what keeps us going.

If you could go back in time, what piece of advice would you give yourself as you first embarked on your career? 

  1. Buy BitCoin when it was $1.95 😉
  2. Ask more questions! People have years of experience in their chosen field and asking the right questions (and taking their advice) can really change your future!

How do you stay motivated to work in this field?

Staying motivated at DV Safe Phone comes from the impactful feedback and anonymous stories shared by our partner agencies. These insights affirm that we’re making a significant difference to the lives of people who need it the most.

We also have the most amazing people in our team, who are all inspired to make a difference, this in turn, inspires me to do even more.

How do you unwind after work?

I love unwinding by going to the gym followed by a swim at our local beach on the Sunshine Coast.

Sometimes we find a good series to unwind to, we’ve just watched the “Ted Lasso” series and it was a fantastic insight into a people-leader with all the odds stacked against him.

Other times we just have some games of “Skip Bo”, a really easy card game to unwind with.

What was the last thing you:

  • Watched – Ted Lasso series. 
  • Read – “Now I See You” by Lauren Trevan (a book written published by one of our amazing volunteers, about domestic violence.)
  • Listened to – Nightingale by Panuma & Kayla (on my headphones, as the office doesn’t like my “spiritual doof doof music” 😉)

Ed Krutsch  |  @ProBonoNews

Ed Krutsch works part-time for Pro Bono Australia and is also an experienced youth organiser and advocate, he is currently the national director of the youth democracy organisation, Run For It.


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